Artists like Tom Patsis are why we created Skillset Magazine. His range of talent as a fabricator and artist will inspire you to take every piece of metal in your home and start welding art. His company is Cold Hard Art, and it impressed us quite a bit.
Q: Tell us about your background and how you got into welding art.
A: I was born in Massachusetts, but grew up in Maine. In high school I went to the local vocational school to be an automotive technician. Once I graduated from high school, I moved to Lima, Ohio, to attend the University of Northwestern Ohio for high performance motorsports, welding and alternative fuels. After graduating from college and I landed a job for Don Schumacher Racing. I worked there six years on their pro stock bike team and did a little welding here and there. I wanted to start practicing welding more, so I thought I would build something that I would want to keep for myself. That’s where the art really started.
Q: Where’d you go next?
After the bike team, I moved up to the fab shop where I built the race cars for the rest of the shop. I was still practicing at home every night after work. In 2008 (when I was still on the bike team), we were at a race in Las Vegas and I met a man named Bodie — the nicest man you could ever meet. He ended up becoming a really good friend. One day he asked me to build him a replica funny car. I started working on it and was about 40 hours into the project when my roommate who owned the welder moved out.
Bodie called me for an update, and I was scared to tell him that I wasn’t going to be able to finish because I no longer had a welder. He didn’t say a word and hung up the phone. I thought I had just screwed everything up, but he called me back about 15 minutes later and said he found a welder and he would bring it to me at the next race. I remember him saying, “I found you a welder so you can keep making cold, hard cash!” That’s where I came up with the name Cold Hard Art.
He also later purchased an air compressor, as I didn’t have one of those, either. We called him “Earth Angel,” because he always seemed to know when we were struggling. Sometimes he would drive all the way from Texas just to purchase all the artwork I had in my shop! Sadly, in 2010 he was killed while he was working on one of his oil derricks in the field. He gave me the confidence and support to get where we are today.
Q: Who has inspired you over the years or has been your biggest influence?
A: I loved watching Jesse James and “Monster Garage.” He always makes building stuff look fun. That’s really where I got the initiative to start welding art.
Q: Looking at your portfolio on the website, there are at least 30 badass sculptures and replicas that look like Dreamworks designed them for a Hollywood film. What’s your proudest build to date?
A: It’s actually hard to answer that. I feel like I’m improving with every build, so the next piece is always my proudest. Does that make sense?
Q: From where do you draw inspiration?
A: Most of the items I build are for customers, so I usually have pictures to go by when I create. The only time I really get to use my imagination is when I’m building something for myself. “Transformers” movies always seem to get me inspired.
Q: Explain who’s lucky enough to earn one of the unique trophies on your website. For whom do you primarily design?
A: Honestly, anybody can win our trophies because we build them for so many different companies, racing series, car shows and charities, including K&N, Red Bull, NHRA, and USAC and STP/Nascar-sponsored events.
Q: If you hit a creative block, how do you overcome it?
A: Usually, if I have a mental block on a project, I’ll set it aside and build something for myself. Building something that has been sitting around in my mind for a couple weeks helps to clear away any mental blocks I might have, in a way.
Q: How long does it take to create this welding art?
A: It depends on the level of detail of a project. If you order a cartoon/abstract version, it may take around 20 hours. If you order a full-detail replica with a wood base, it can take 35-40 hours. However If the project is as detailed as a trophy truck, you’re looking at 40-plus hours.
Q: Do you have any advice for young artists reading this article?
A: My advice to younger artists is not to expect to do your best overnight. Keep at it and keep practicing. Try to create your own style. You can draw inspiration from other artists, but keep it your own so you can see the difference. Also, take criticism with a grain of salt. My high school art teacher said I wouldn’t be taken seriously in the art world if I didn’t stop with all the motorsports art. I’m sure glad I didn’t listen!